We've moved! Go here now for all our new stuff. Since Blogger looks lame. Purely for the lulz, I might do something here since this blog has been around for a long time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Re-writing Gundam History

(The picture may not be particuarly relevant to the blog post, but it sure is pretty.)

So I’m 30 episodes into Turn A Gundam, and so far it’s got a lot of things going on in it which really appeals to me, though probably not a lot to many others. I think when Tomino was directing this he wanted to break the conventions of the franchise, which is understandable as the series was made when Gundam was beginning to seem stagnant. There had already been seven different shows in the franchise and to a casual fan they would probably all blend together.

Turn A Gundam stands out however, and its obvious just by looking at it. The titular mecha the Turn A, or White Moustache as it’s sometimes called (Designed by Syd Mead of BladeRunner fame, don’t cha’ know?) seems to be a purposely bizarre design, most obviously because of the V symbol on its mouth which resembles a moustache. The other mecha are just as odd, usually looking a little like animals (not necessarily any real animals I can think of, just strangely animalistic) and overall less flashy than your usual Gundam mecha, and at times, dare I say, more realistic. (Actually, realistic may be a bad word to use when describing mecha.)

(A pretty good example of the animalistic design I was talking about, though maybe I'm stretching. Still, the idea of adapting MS's from animals isn't exactly new, I'm sure I remember some sort of Mobile Suit in Zeta which resembled a Bat, and I'm pretty sure there was an octopus like design in the original series.)

Then there’s also the main character of the series, Loran, he’s very different than what fans are used to when it comes to the hero’s of Gundam. For one thing he’s not aggressive, he’s shy and well spoken, and also seems pretty sensitive. And yet he doesn’t whine like other gundam pilots do, he takes everything in stride and does whatever he can to make those around him at ease, and the world more peaceful, unlike most he has a very idealised view of the world (the last part is actually more of a gripe I have with the series, but maybe I’ll get to that into another article.) And of course, the main difference between him and other Gundam pilots (at the time at least) is that he’s very feminine, voiced by a woman, and even forced to cross dress in some episodes (For perfectly non perverted reasons of course) He’s more the kind of hero I’d expect in a shoujo work than shounen robot show, but I can’t say I dislike him, he’s no where near as grating as
most Gundam pilots.

The biggest difference though is probably the setting. As I said in my last entry I REALLY like the setting of the Universal Century, but at this point it’s been diluted by constant sequels and side-stories, some of which were so bad Tomino had to state they weren’t canon. The Alternate Universes were supposed to solve this problem but more often than not they just rehashed the same ideas with a new set of paint. Turn A Gundam however does exactly what one of these AU’s should, it creates a completely new world. The setting (and the series itself) has been compared to a Studio Ghibli film, and while it’s not quite as beautiful, I can see where the comparison comes from. Turn A Gundam is set in America in the very far future, and it is in an age VERY similar to the 1800’s. Aside from the earths mecha (all of which has been recovered from thousands of years ago.) everything is very low tech, and really a lot of the show is just about setting. There are plenty of episodes which don’t rely on action to progress the story, but rather show simple things like the effect the war has on a hospital, how businesses collapses, and even just how the characters react to one another. In the original gundam series I’ve always found the politics and mecha intriguing, but the characters and dialogue are generally the low points. In Turn A just seeing people interact is a plus.

I can help but think something like Turn A Gundam just couldn’t be made nowadays, at least not in the Gundam franchise. Gundam 00 for instance is enjoyable, but it doesn’t really try to make any huge changes to the formula. Hell, I’m surprised Turn A could be made back then, though I’m sure it was because of an assortment of factors. Perhaps it was because the series before it (X) had done so badly that Sunrise decided it was time for a change, or maybe its because Tomino was finnally working on a Gundam series again, Sunrise would probably let him do whatever he wanted as long as his name was on the finished product.

Either way, shockingly it turns out anime fans don’t much care for change, since Turn A was not a commercial success. Still damn good though.

Gran Torino "Grampa Clint, I love you"

Clint Eastwood's persona has always been the "tough guy" the "bad ass"
"fucker you didn't wanna mess with". But have you ever seen Clint Eastwood as a caring, kind old man? Someone who gave a lost young man his way in life, and grew to understand a culture so alien and foreign to him?

This is the premise of his latest film, Gran Torino. It's the story of a retired war vet who sees a world changing and growing in front of him. A world of both unfamiliarity and familiarity. In this film, we see the world through Walter Kowalski's(Clint Eastwood) eyes. He sees the youth as disrespectful and brash. His own family ungrateful, and their concerns misplaced. The story begins after Walter's wife has just been buried. We get to see how his own family acts around him. The viewer sees them not as his family, but ungrateful vultures. You can see this in his granddaughter. She asks if she can help her grandfather, only to ask for his prized posession, His Gran Torino.

At first glance, it seems like the average Clint Eastwood film. Clint here plays a cantankerous yet higly respectable old man who brandishes his gun and isn's afraid to talk dirty. But this isn't what this film is about. It's about the old America, seeing the new america. America not as white America, but America as the global america. Walt Kowalski represents old America. Racist, angry, stubborn,hardworking, kind and respectable. His Hmong neighbors on the other hand, represent a new america, they are foreign, they bring something new to the melting pot of america. The way he treats the Hmong is also very reminiscent of old white america. At first, he is afraid, racist and insecure. But slowly he warms up to them, even enjoying their food and company.

During the first half, I couldn't help but laugh at Walt's actions to everything. He would swear up a storm, and I would laugh, he kicked his family out of his house on his birthday and I laughed, he taught Thao how to be a man, I laughed. But halfway through the film, and pretty much near the end you sympathize and grow to love Walt. Eastwood's performance brings life to the character. His performance was so great that me and my friend kept saying how much we wanted to be like Clint. Imagine two 19 yr old guys, wanting to idolizing a 75 yr old man. This film was a tug to a heart, it is a man's "chick flick".

This film almost made me cry (I had a tear in my eye). It's a lovely film, especially the ending, which I won't spoil but it has to do with inheritance and who gets what. This film was beautiful, human and powerful. It's truly a man's film. It reminds us manly men that no matter how tough we act, we're gonna need people to love us, and remember us when we are long gone. If you're gonna watch something more than once, watch this film. IT is the best film of the year. If we ever look back and want to see what life was like in this benchmark era of ours, Gran Torino should be the film.

P.S It really got to me in the end when he's singing the song, fuck I love this film.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

GUNTOMS - And some first impressions on Dougram

Armoured Trooper Votoms and Mobile Suit Gundam are two mecha series I love excessively, despite the flaws I often find in both franchises. Gundam is (or perhaps, was) a series of brilliant ideas, though with some often shoddy execution. The setting of the Universal Century and the many wars within it is one of my favourite ideas in anime, and I’ll keep watching OAV’s and series made about it as long as their produced. Despite this, I have to admit that the original series is often weighed down by some poor mecha designs as well as the awkwardly plotted scenes and dialogue its director, Yoshiyuki Tomino, has become infamous for.

Votoms on the other hand is the opposite, it’s a series where I adore the mecha, and find the characters a welcome change from the norm. And yet the thing which un-interests me most about Votoms is the setting, despite loving the mecha and technology of the series, the world they inhabit just strikes me as a little bland, or at the very least a bit unexplored.

I think the only way to really please me would be to combine these two shows, take Gundam’s setting of the universal century, the richly detailed history of the One Year War, and mix it with the more believable characters and technology of Votoms. I shall call this masterpiece, ARMORED SUIT GUNTOMS!

C’mon, that’d be a sweet series.

Still, even if I my beautiful GUNTOMS will never see the light of day, there is another show which at least on a surface level seems to fit that description. Fang of The Sun Dougram is a series directed by Ryouske Takahashi who of course also directed Votoms, and was a series which followed on from Gundam and further cemented the popularity of the real robot genre. The plot is pretty standard Real Robot stuff, and deals with a rag tag group of rebels who have to deal with the The Earth Federation who have allowed a dictatorship to reign on they’re home colony (Mecha has taught me that Earth Federations are not a good idea, they are ALWAYS evil!) The designs are what initially stood out to me in this series, their by Kunio Okawara, who did both Votoms and Gundam (Notice the incestuous relationship real robot series seemed to have?) The designs in this series are pretty realistic for the time, they may be huge mechanical juggernauts but so far they haven’t done anything which seems to be too far out of the realm of reality (though there’s still plenty of time.) And it follows Ryouske Takahashi’s general rule of focusing more on grunt units and tactics rather than the super powered machines we’re more used to right now.

Its pretty refreshing when most mecha anime nowadays try to focus on the robots being as shiny and stylish as possible, to watch something where the mecha are unwieldy things, and despite the ridiculousness of giant robots there is a certain degree of logic to how they’re designed. I can’t say I’m very far through, but it’ll be interesting to see where this series goes.

Check it out here. http://xnebula.blogspot.com/2008_09_01_archive.html